Cooper

Our 100th post!  Who knew we talked so much?

I blogged recently about the change of direction we are taking with our goats.  Having sold the meat breed goats, we still needed to get our dairy does bred and explored many options.  Not keen on getting another buck – they are stinky and frankly, our last one was a lovable butthead.  (Pronunciation guide: The first three syllables of “lovable butthead” are silent.)  We looked into artificial insemination (AI) but technicians are few and the ridiculously brief period of receptivity( 6-12 hours) ensures that even if you detect the heat, it will be finished before the AI tech can arrive.

I investigated learning how to do the AI myself, but courses are expensive and halfway across the country.  Then would be the challenge of keeping semen onsite ready to be thawed for that narrow window of opportunity – which could occur while we were sleeping!

My does are Oberhasli – a Swiss breed that we have since learned are somewhat rare in this country.  I have two friends each with registered Nubian does – another dairy breed – who were also without bucks.  You see where this is going…. a shared problem becomes a shared venture.  So, we agreed look for a registered, purebred Nubian with good conformation.  After looking for some time, we found the perfect candidate, named “4RS Minima Cooper”, but we instead purchased the large dalmatian dog seen below.

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And just in case you don’t think he looks tall in a picture by himself, here he is beside one of the Oberhasli does.

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So far he has been a perfect gentleman – gentle with the goats and respectful of people.

Kilo and Karina’s response to the new animal in the herd they guard was interesting and, ultimately satisfying.  Both initially barked and growled at the large, unfamiliar intruder.  Kilo, who is older, bigger, and calmer, rather quickly accepted my assurances that this animal was now one of their own and the two of them experimented a bit to see which of them would yield way to the other, but were amicable soon enough.  Karina, on the other hand, frankly didn’t agree with me; she barked at him intermittently for a couple of days, before grudgingly accepting that he belongs.  Now they both watch and protect him just as they do the other goats and sheep.

We are excited to see the kids born out of this combination!  Per the partnership agreement, Cooper will live at each farm approximately four months each year, servicing 2-3 does at each farm.  He is a lucky buck!

Changing Directions

When we first moved to the homestead, our goal was to feed the family without becoming slaves to the livestock.  With that goal in mind, we installed an auto door on the chicken coop so the poultry can take care of themselves with less input from us, sheep because they can graze a good portion of the year, and meat breed goats because they too don’t require much daily input.

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That all changed when our neighbor talked us into the dairy cows.  With the addition of the cows, followed by the dairy goats, suddenly we were where we never planned to be: tied to regular milking.  However, the partnership with the neighbors works beautifully as we only have to milk every other day and can still travel and have some flexibility.  We also elected to milk our cows and goats only in the mornings, rather than twice a day.  It means a little less milk (though we still get plenty) but a lot more freedom.

However we still owned the meat goats.  Compared to lambs, who can grow to eating size in 5-6 months on only their mama’s milk and then grass, goat kids grow a lot slower.  And we’ve realized that though we like goats, we have plenty of lamb meat, so don’t really need the goat meat.  Keeping both dairy and meat goats means either maintaining two bucks (and a means of keeping them separate from the does in order to control breeding), breeding a dairy buck to meat goats (resulting in even leaner kids) or breeding a meat buck to dairy does (resulting in kids who won’t produce high volumes of milk).

We considered the option of AI (Artificial Insemination), thinking we could give up a buck altogether and simply breed the does via semen ordered through the mail.  But, it turns out goats are one of the more challenging species to AI due to a short heat cycle that makes it difficult to time it just right.

So – we made the decision this week to give up the meat goats and focus on dairy.  The meat buck and doe have been sold and the two remaining kids will fill our freezer before winter, leaving us with only the two dairy does to maintain for the time being.  A dairy buck is in our future but for this winter it will be nice not to have to deal with him.

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Starting Over….with a new Doe

As mentioned here, we returned from vacation to find that our goat doe had died while we were gone.  She had a name and we were fond of her, so this was a loss for us, but even more so for our buck.  He was lost without her.  The first night he slept as close to her dead body as he could get and after it was removed, he followed me around, crying whenever I went out of sight.  He “heeled” me far better than any dog I’ve ever had; wherever I went, I felt his chin pressed up against my leg as he kept pace with me, and if I stopped moving, he wanted me to pet him and thrust his face into my hands until I did.

I tend to be pragmatic.  The goats are Boers – a meat breed – selected for their ability to feed our family.  Without a doe, our plans to raise goat meat were shot, and it turns out that raising sheep and goats together poses a challenge due to their different dietary needs.  So I was in favor of sending the buck to butcher – despite having been adopted as his doe.

HWA voted to get a new doe.

Now, finding an adult doe – especially at this time of year – is no easy task.  It is kidding season and there are bucklings available in large numbers but most people want to keep their does and doelings for themselves.  However I put out some feelers and was able to find a Savanna doe – 15 months old – about an hour away.

Meet “Bianca” (So named because it means “white” in Italian.)  She has never kidded but we’re hoping that around 5-6 months from now, she and Smoky, our buck, will have a kid or kids.

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She has only been with us a few days so she and Smoky are still in a relatively small pen, while she acclimates herself to her new home.  Once she has, they will be turned out to graze the pasture with our sheep.